US iPhone maker Apple and China have “grown together” over the past three decades, and the relationship between the company and one of its largest markets has become “symbolic,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday.
In his first visit to China since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Cook said the company would soon celebrate the 30th anniversary of operating in the Chinese market.
“We could not be more excited… Apple and China… grew together and so this has been a symbiotic kind of relationship,” Apple CEO stated, as cited by the Financial Times.
During his speech, Cook also praised Apple’s “very large supply chain operation in China,” as well as “a thriving App Store” in the country. According to Reuters, citing a local news outlet, Cook also praised China’s efforts with regard to innovation technologies, stating that “innovation is developing rapidly in China and I believe it will further accelerate.”
The CEO also mentioned education and the “need for young people to learn programming critical thinking skills,” adding that Apple plans to increase spending on its rural education program in China to 100 million yuan ($14.5 million).
Cook’s visit comes at a time when Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads over the latter’s attempts to block Chinese access to US technology. The trip also follows a difficult year for Apple, which suffered from supply chain constraints due to China’s zero-Covid controls. The company’s revenue in the final quarter of 2022 fell for the first time in over three years after it had to delay deliveries of some of its products during the holiday period due to supply disruptions in China.
Сook did not mention either problem in his speech, however, which some analysts see as a show of support for the country.
While Apple has reportedly been mulling boosting iPhone production in India, industry experts say the company is unlikely to shift production in the near term, as the scope of products it manufactures in China is too vast. A report by CNN, citing an estimate from market research firm Counterpoint, said that as of September 2022 Apple’s manufacturing plant in the city of Zhengzhou was producing 85% of its iPhone Pros.
Analysts also point out that China fulfills a range of crucial requirements for iPhone manufacturing that are difficult to replicate in other countries, including the availability of materials and components, well-organized infrastructure and access to a large and cheap workforce of professional engineers.